This week during United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings, USAID made important connections with leaders from other development organizations and private-sector institutions that work to advance global development. Among the topics explored was how we can collaborate to promote inclusive development, ensure equal access to foreign aid, and protect the human rights of one of the world’s most vulnerable populations – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Around the world, LGBT individuals are often among those who least enjoy the benefits from human rights protections, opportunities, and freedoms; they often face discrimination, harassment and violence and are regularly excluded from receiving public services. Eighty-three countries still criminalize LGBT behavior and seven countries impose the death penalty for same-sex relations. In some countries the lived experience for LGBT people is getting worse.
Protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the world represents a difficult challenge yet USAID is leading. And USAID can lead more effectively in partnership with others. As a global community we must leverage our resources and technical expertise to effectively and efficiently further LGBT global equality. As Administrator Shah pointed out in the Agency’s 2013 annual letter, collaboration and partnerships are powerful ways to harness the public and private sectors as engines of growth, innovation, and development expertise.
I had the privilege this week at UNGA to participate in a meeting centered on USAID’s goal to promote LGBT equality through collaboration with others. USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and the Ford Foundation convened public and private donors to strengthen relationships between and among government donors, private foundations, and the businesses supporting LGBT development issues globally. We identified areas for shared learning and increased future collaboration.
At this meeting I was particularly proud to share how USAID has already made great strides with partners to secure better lives for LGBT people, their families, and their communities around the world. USAID’s LGBT Global Development Partnership launched earlier this year brings together a broad coalition of public and private sector partners who are leveraging their joint resources and expertise to advance LGBT equality in the developing world. It aims to strengthen the capacity of local LGBT civil society organizations, train LGBT leaders in how to participate more effectively in democratic processes, and undertake research on the economic cost of discrimination against LGBT individuals. With 12 resource partners co-investing $12 million, it is the largest LGBT global equality initiative.
Last month I had the privilege to witness this partnership in action when I visited a training in Colombia conducted by the Victory Institute for 30 local LGBT people interested in running for political office or managing campaigns. It was the second such training in just three months–brought back by local demand, as the first training was over-subscribed by 500 percent.
While the challenges remain great, USAID should be proud that it put LGBT inclusive development through public-private partnership on the UNGA agenda this year. I am excited that USAID is taking a leading role in convening partners to solve this very important development problem. Individually, and even more so collectively, strategic investments in global LGBT equality can make a very positive impact on the lives of people around the world.
Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.